Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier tragedy mum sues Donegal council

By Staff Reporter

A Londonderry mum who lost five members of her family in the Buncrana pier tragedy has instigated legal action against Donegal County Council.

Louise James has issued High Court proceedings following the deaths of her partner Sean McGrotty (49), sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), mother Ruth Daniels (59) and sister Jodie Lee (14).

An inquest into the incident, which saw the 4x4 they were in slide off the pier and into Lough Swilly, delivered a verdict of death by misadventure.

The inquest also heard evidence that at least three cars had lost control on the pier, and that on the day of tragedy the slipway was covered in algae, making it as "slippery as ice".

The only survivor was her and her partner's one-year-old baby Rioghnach-Ann, who was rescued by ex-footballer Davitt Walsh. The hero later received a Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Award for his bravery.

According to court records, Ms James filed legal proceedings against Donegal County Council on June 9.

It is believed her action centres on claims that the pier, which was covered in algae, was unsafe and should not have been accessible to vehicles.

Last week's inquest heard that Mr McGrotty, the driver of the 4x4, was more than three times the drink-driving limit when he died.

The Republic's limit is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. In Northern Ireland it is 80mg.

But Ms James does not hold him responsible for the accident, describing him as a wonderful partner and adoring father.

Speaking after the inquest, she said: "He lived for them and it is clear from what this inquest has heard that in fact he died as he lived, in that he could have saved himself and chose not to."

Describing her anguish, she added: "I firmly believe the slipway should have been closed to the general public or else proper warning signs displayed, as it was an accident waiting to happen.

"Hopefully lessons will be learned and the recommendations made following this inquest will be implemented."

Speaking at the inquest, chief executive of Water Safety Ireland John Leech said a report into future safety at the pier should consider putting "slippery surface" notices up.

The inquest jury recommended that Water Safety Ireland takes a lead role in advising and working with interested parties to introduce best international practice for safety on slipways and piers.

Meanwhile, it was also reported yesterday that plans were being discussed to erect a monument to the victims at the spot where they lost their lives.

Councillors are to consider proposals for a permanent tribute at Donegal County Council this week.

Sinn Fein's Jack Murray told the Sunday World newspaper he was backing the proposal.

"It is something that should be considered, and will be discussed," he said.

"I don't see any reason why we wouldn't have something to remember those who tragically lost their lives."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph